Eating your own dog food.

Being a lifelong learner, sometimes it takes me a lifetime to learn some things.  This was one of them.

Every so often I say something that completely derails the conversation. All the momentum of the bright, brilliant dialogue comes to a screeching halt, and my conversation partner is sitting there with a puzzled look on their face.

After several uncomfortable occurrences, a pattern started to form. I have a habit of trying to compress a whole thought into one pithy, witty maxim (or a short blog) and will use phrases like "We NEED to eat our own dog food!"  In retrospect, it was clear why I was losing people when they had no context.

But enough of the communication lesson... We NEED to eat our own dog food!  And let me explain...

Long ago an advertising firm met around the boardroom table to discuss why the sales of their client's dog food were not doing well.

"I don't understand it!" the CEO boomed, "We have the best packaging, the best advertising campaign, the best placement in the supermarkets and pet stores! Why aren't we selling more?!"

One of the people around the table meekly put up her hand.  "WHAT??!!" said the CEO.

"Well sir," said the analyst, "It turns out the dogs don't like it."

The IT department in most organizations are notorious for rolling out complex systems - ERP, BI, CRM, CMS and a litany of other acronyms that our user's have no choice about using. While we are adept at making them work, many of us in IT leadership have never had to approach it from the user's perspective.

This lesson was driven home to me here at Appleby College, where I not only work, but I have a son who attends.  I had to go through all the processes that we put our parents through to apply, then register a student, then stay on top of all the other bits of information that flows in a technologically enhanced environment like Appleby.

Let's just say that enhancing the user experience became a significant priority.  I would never appreciate it as much had I not gone through the experience.

Keep this in mind when you implement the next "I don't have a choice but to use this" system. Make sure you get feedback from a real user, who will be living with your choices for a long time.

Live the life of your users. After a while the dog food will start tasting quite reasonable.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe I missed the "eating your own dog food" blog. Good stuff none the less. Of course the challenge is how to create new dog food when the old stuff is already out to market ;)